Thursday, February 12, 2009

Following Europe ’s lead on climate change

by Paul Driessen

EU countries are having second thoughts about Kyoto . Whose lead should we follow?

There is no “consensus” on the “problem” or “solution.” Over 31,000 scientists, including hundreds of climate scientists, vigorously disagree with the assertion that human carbon dioxide emissions will cause a climate cataclysm. Many express concern that climate legislation would cost jobs and punish families and businesses, to reduce global temperatures by perhaps 0.1 degree.

Long ago ice ages and interglacial periods, the Sahara’s shift from verdant valleys to parched desert, and protracted droughts in the Yucatan and American Southwest had nothing to do with humans, they note. Sunspot counts are now at a 50-year low, indicating reduced solar activity and possibly explaining why planetary temperatures haven’t risen in a decade, despite soaring CO2 levels, say solar experts. Some computer models predict major climatic shifts, but they don’t include solar and other natural factors.

Hydrocarbons provide 85% of all US energy. They are the foundation of an economy that has been shaken to its core and may be entering a recession. Wind and solar represent less than 0.5% – and provide only intermittent auxiliary power. The new “Lights out in 2009?” study warns that the United States “faces potentially crippling brownouts and blackouts,” beginning in 2009, especially in regions that experience prolonged hot spells during summer months, due to insufficient generating capacity.

A bank that wanted to install solar panels found it would cost $850,000 – but would cut only 12% off its electricity bill. That meant it would take 90 years to pay off panels would last only 30 years.

Climate change alarmists ignore inconvenient truths like these, and say Europe signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. They don’t even mention the troublesome realities of current European and global climate politics.

As of 2008, many EU countries’ actual emissions are well above their Kyoto targets. Italy ’s were 14% above, Portugal ’s 17%, Denmark ’s 19%, Austria ’s 30%, Spain ’s 37 percent. (By comparison, US emissions are some 23% above target levels we would have agreed to, had we signed Kyoto . But America ’s carbon dioxide emission growth rate has been just 0.2% per year since 2000, notes University of Colorado climatologist Richard Keen.)

Last year, the European Union solved its predicament by agreeing to slash emissions 20% by 2020. Now, because of the global financial crisis, many EU countries and industries want to back away from even that. Perhaps they will agree to 30% by 2030 – or perhaps 40 by 40.

In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to eliminate coal and nuclear power in Germany . Today she wants to keep nuclear power, build new coal-fired plants, and shield chemical, steel, manufacturing, cement and auto industries, by reducing emission goals or providing free cap-and-trade permits.
Austria and Italy also want EU climate restrictions eased to help industries that are struggling with high energy prices, the economic crisis, and competition from less regulated overseas competitors that rely on coal for power generation and easily undercut European production costs.

Italian ministers have called the EU climate action plan “politically correct garbage” that “would kill any economic improvement” and “achieve very modest environmental benefits” – on the order of reducing projected global warming by 0.1 degrees or less. Prime Minister Berlusconi insists that any EU climate deal be revisited in late 2009, after its real economic and employment costs have been fully analyzed.

Poland and other former Eastern Bloc nations strongly oppose any EU climate change plan that doesn’t exempt them, because they depend on coal for up to 90% of their electricity and on Russia for up to 97% of their natural gas. They were held back for 50 years under Communist dictators – and now are loathe to have development restricted by dictates from Brussels .

Britain is likewise reexamining its commitments, because punitive climate taxes and energy prices have forced 5.5 million households to live in “fuel poverty” – and factories are saying they may have to close their doors and furlough workers all winter, because of high fuel prices.

In Australia , public opinion has shifted from 55% in favor of taking action on climate change in 2007, to 55% opposed to such action in 2008 – before the global financial meltdown. And a recent poll found that 78% of Canadian citizens feel they have been mislead about the costs and benefits of Kyoto , and want fair and objective information from the media and politicians.
Meanwhile, China and India are building new coal-fired power plants every month. They put reducing rampant poverty ahead of the speculative effects of future climate change – and say they will be better able to adapt to climate changes (natural or human) if they are rich and technologically advanced.

Impoverished African nations also want abundant, reliable, affordable energy, to ensure safe water, refrigeration and modern hospitals, and reduce lung and intestinal disease and death. But US and EU greens say they must be satisfied with pitiful amounts of intermittent energy from “sustainable” sources like wind and solar.

Al Gore prophesies ecological doom – but flies only private jets, owns a fancy houseboat, and uses more electricity in a week than 28 million Ugandans together use in a year. NASA climate scold James Hansen wants to silence any debate on global warming science and economics.

California gets much of its electricity from coal-fired power plants located 600 miles from Los Angeles – enabling it to claim it’s “a leader” in curbing carbon dioxide. It also gets substantial electricity from a nuclear power plant in Arizona , and most of its oil from Alaska .

Utah, on the other hand, generates most of its electricity from coal-fired plants within the state. That helps ensure more affordable electricity, enabling poor families to live better on lower incomes – and still have money left for rent, college, retirement, healthcare and charity.

Which policies are more responsible, humanitarian, ethical and sustainable? Which should we follow?

In the midst of all this debate, rancor, economic chaos and power plant construction, Senator Obama, House Democrats and others are nevertheless promoting new cap-and-trade legislation that could be even more damaging than Warner-Lieberman, which even sponsors admitted would have cost nearly $7 trillion. They oppose oil and gas drilling, and new coal, nuclear and hydroelectric plants.
Many want to “transform” our energy and economic system – from one that works to one based on heavily subsidized “renewable” technologies that aren’t ready for prime time, and likely won’t make a significant contribution for decades.

Morality, environmental justice and corporate social responsibility are too often defined by narrowly-focused environmental ideologies. They pit rich countries and eco-elites against poor families and nations that worry more about immediate life-or-death concerns than speculative human-caused climate chaos. They replace rough-and-tumble debate over science and economics with dogmatism and intimidation.
We need to protect our economies, jobs, poor families and planet. We need conservation and all forms of energy: whatever works best, at lowest cost, for particular cities, states, regions and nations.

We cannot afford policies that roll back economic and civil rights gains – or reflect the “leadership” of increasingly isolated environmental activists who insist that punitive climate policies must be adhered to, for tiny environmental gains, even in the midst of fiscal, employment and public health disasters.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ∙ Black death.

(I would like to once again thank Mr. Dreissen for allowing me to reproduce his work. RK)


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